[Today: Genesis 49] Do You Ever Prophesy Over Your Children? In this chapter, Jacob calls the family together and prophesies over each one of his children. God honors Jacob’s declaration, and his words govern the bloodlines of the tribes of Israel right down to the modern day. What about you? This chapter is an example for us of the need to speak the declaration of God over our loved ones that they, too, might fulfill their destiny.
In verse 1 of our chapter, Jacob calls his sons together after a private audience with Joseph, Ephraim, and Manasseh during which time Jacob prophesied over Joseph’s sons separately to honor Joseph for his suffering at the hands of his brothers and the love Joseph showed in delivering them from the famine that otherwise would surely have decimated his clan. Jacob is 147 years old, and he knows that his time is near. The practice of giving a final blessing at the end of one’s life is an ancient tradition that is reflected today when someone leaves a last will and testament to disperse their wealth as an inheritance to surviving family members.
In verse 3, Jacob begins with Reuben. Jacob acknowledges Rueben as his firstborn in choosing him first. He concedes that Rueben walks in the strength, the might, power, and dignity of his father. Reuben demonstrated these character traits many times in his actions such as when he sought to defend Joseph when the brothers wanted to kill him, and when he offered up his own sons if he was to be unable to return Benjamin after taking him to Egypt. Unfortunately, this isn’t all there is to make a note of in Reuben. He also had an unreliable bent to his character that showed up most prominently when, in a moment of impropriety, he had sex with Jacob’s concubine Bilhah. Why would Reuben have done such a thing? Other than for reasons of gratifying the flesh, we can look at David and his son Absalom when Absalom attempted to take over David’s kingdom. The very first thing he did when he entered David’s palace was to copulate with several of his father’s concubines in full public view of the citizens of Jerusalem. This was done to solidify the removal of David from the throne and to assert his rights as (in Absalom’s thinking) the entitled king of Israel. Reuben’s motives may very well have been intended as an insult to his father Jacob in this way as a statement of prematurely asserting his authority to do as he pleased in ruling over his brothers. Regardless of the details, this act of rebellion cost Reuben his rights and privileges of being the firstborn and receiving the full inheritance that would have otherwise been his to claim.
In v. 5-7, we see that Simeon and Levi were rejected not only for their cruelty but for the agreement between them where Shechem and Hamor were concerned (Gen. 34:26). When Dinah, their sister, was raped by Shechem, Simeon and Levi agreed to an act of deception that put them in a position to murder every man in the city of Shalem in Schechem as an act of extreme revenge for their sister. To Jacob, this was a great indignity and also resulted in the nearby towns lying in wait to kill the entire family. Simeon and Levi had acted in anger and self-will, regardless of the consequences, and for this, they are rejected from inheriting, which otherwise would have been their right in the aftermath of Reuben being rejected for reasons stated above.
Had Rueben, Simeon, and Levi made other choices, things would have looked much different for them, and the timeline of the descent of Jesus would have been very different as well. Can you imagine Jesus being celebrated as the descendant of Reuben, or Simeon or Levi and not Judah? This would have been the case had they not sinned. It must also be pointed out that the fact that these three brothers were firstborn before Judah signifies God’s original intent to honor them ahead of Judah, but because of sin, they lost out. What are we saying here? First of all, we must concede that birth order was and no doubt still is ordained of God (Gen. 29:31). Secondly, we are sobered by the reality that even though God might preordain us for nobility, we can defame ourselves and lose out on His plan for as a result of sin. What was Reuben’s sin? Reuben’s sin was to attempt to usurp his father Jacob and to claim the inheritance before the time. He was getting ahead of God’s timing. We don’t want to do this in our situations. Patience is the key. Waiting patiently before God for the fulfillment of his promise will keep us from the transgression of Reuben.
What about Simeon and Levi? Their sin was two-fold. First, they came together in an ungodly agreement to do a wicked thing. Whose idea was it to commit murder? Was it Simeon or Levi? If, after the suggestion was made to do this thing, what if the other brother refused? Perhaps the tragedy of Gen. 34 would have never happened (that they perpetrated in killing every man in the city where Dinah was raped). Ungodly agreements will snare your soul and destroy your destiny. Be strong enough to say no and not give in even to family when wickedness is at the gate. You might just save your own future and your brother’s also.
In v. 8-12, we now see Judah, the fourth in line for the inheritance. Judah will receive everything that otherwise would have accrued to Reuben, Simeon, and Levi. Why? Because he had not sinned after the manner of his brothers. He wasn’t perfect, but God chose him and inspired Jacob to choose him. This is in spite of the fact that Judah married a Canaanite against his father’s will, and that he frequented prostitutes and unwittingly committed incest with his deceased son’s daughter Tamar. God still chose him, and Jacob still chose him.
What was the result of God and Jacob choosing Judah? Judah will become the progenitor of Jesus. Judah will be the tribe that the kings of Israel will descend from. Judah will receive inheritance and blessing not only on the earth during the days of the Davidic line of kings but also in heaven, having his named scribed in honor of the place he would hold in the history of his people (See Rev. 21:12).
In v. 13-18, we find mention of Zebulun, Issachar, Dan. Zebulun will be blessed to be a tribe of merchant mariners on the border of Zidon. Issachar will become as strong as an ass to carry a double burden. The Jewish scholars see this as a picture of a donkey carrying burdens slung across his back on the right and on the left. What are the burdens that Issachar will carry? They are not literal but figurative being the burdens of the law and the prophets, and from antiquity, Issachar is seen to be a people carrying as a servant the testimony of the law and the testimony of the prophets with honor and strength.
In v. 16, Dan is spoken of as a judge. Jacob describes Dan as a serpent in the way that bites the horse’s heels. What does this mean for us? A horse in the Bible represents vain strength and ego. When we set ourselves up as judges as Dan represents, we are only putting a serpent in our own path that will cause us to fall when we presume to point out the errors of others without correcting our own transgressions. It is interesting to note that Dan is not mentioned in the 144,000 in the book of Revelation. Why is Dan excluded from the list of tribes in Revelation 7:5-8? Because in Christ, in the New Covenant, James 2:13 tells us that mercy rejoices over judgment.
In verses 19-27, the blessing of Jacob comes upon Gad, Asher, Naphtali, and Benjamin. The description of Benjamin is interesting to make a note of. Benjamin shall be as a ravening wolf. This is somewhat ambiguous and certainly more than a little negative. Let us remember that Saul, who was the king for whom the whole of Israel turned their backs on God (1 Sam. 8:7) – Saul was a Benjamite. Likewise, Saul of Tarsus, who breathed out threatenings and delivered many converted Jews to death along with their wives and children, was a Benjamite (Acts 9:1; Phil. 3:5). Yet even in Benjamin, we see the redemptive nature of God in raising up even Saul the Persecutor to be Paul the Apostle, the greatest man to have ever lived with the exception of Jesus Himself.
In v. 28-33, Jacob gives instructions concerning his burial in a location that 2000 years later will be in proximity to Jerusalem. Why is this so important? Because when Jesus was on the cross, many graves were opened, and the righteous dead came forth and prophesied the kingdom that was for to come. Jacob, in this entire chapter, is prophesying from beginning to end, and in this part, he prophesies his own destiny even after his death as Matthew 27:51-53 records.
[Mat 27:51-53 KJV] 51 And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; 52 And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, 53 And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.
Having set his affairs in order, Jacob gathered his feet into the bed and gave up the ghost and is gathered to his people.